Less than 5% of US population accounts for 50% of healthcare spending: study

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Less than 5 percent of the U.S. population accounted for half of healthcare expenditures in 2018, according to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open

For the study, researchers analyzed data collected from the Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys collected between 2001 and 2018. The authors sought to understand how the concentration of healthcare spending in the U.S. changed by population subgroup and expenditure type. The sample included more than 30,000 individuals. 

Four key details:

1. Researchers found that the concentration of healthcare spending across the high, medium and low spenders remained stable from 2001 to 2018. For example, the high-spending bracket, which accounts for 50 percent of expenditures, varied between 4.2 and 4.8 percent. 

2. The high spending was more concentrated among patients with private health insurance rather than Medicare.

3. Researchers found that during the 18-year study period, cost became more concentrated among uninsured individuals.

4. While the concentration stayed relatively stable across most categories, prescription drug spending saw a sharp increase in the concentration. In 2001, 50 percent of all expenditures on prescription drugs were concentrated in 6 percent of the U.S. population, but in 2018, the same expenditures were concentrated to just 2.3 percent of the population.

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